Victims of child sexual abuse from Jehovah’s Witnesses demand investigation

Survivors of Child sexual abuse within Jehovah’s witnesses request the department of Justice to start an investigation. Until now there are 151 people claiming to have been abused within the Jehovah’s witnesses community. This may just be the tip of the iceberg according to the Reclaimed Voices Foundaton. This the RTL News of Friday, January, the 26th 2018 Good evening There should be started an independent investigation into child sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses as soon as possible. Today, Victims have demanded this from the minister of legal protection. They requested such an investigation because, according to them, the church is covering up the abuse. Former members of Jehovah’s Witnesses have started a reporting center and 151 victims have already been reported there. One of them is Steve As a child, he was forced to have sex with an 18-year old Jehovah’s witness. I was abused from my 6th until my 13th year by the son of my mother’s friend who was much older than I was. Steve told the story to his mother Together they reported the story to an elder, that’s like a supervisor within the church. This elder discouraged them to report the abuse to the police. We were told that, in fact we were free to go the police but… it was strongly discouraged, because it will discredit Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world. And they did not want that to happen? Exactly when you are discouraged to do something by an elder by someone who has authority in the church, you don’t go against them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a worldwide Christian fundamentalist denomination There are almost 8,5 million active members. According to them, their task is to proclaim their faith, for example by calling people at home. For Jehovah’s witnesses, the word of God is the only real law that applies to them. They think that regular courts are to worldly They prefer to solve problems within their own church. Precisely the latter is the problem, according to the victims For years, Jehovah’s witnesses have been aware of child sexual abuse within their church. Because the church acts according to internal church law perpetrators will not go to jail and cases of child sexual abuse are covered up. These are people with a mission, members of the Reclaimed Voices Foundation. We demand safety and recognition for victims. That’s why they have a meeting with the Department of Justice and Safety For victims of abuse do not receive the justice they are looking for. When somebody within the Jehovah’s witnesses reports child abuse the case is submitted to the elders These people investigate what has happened and will convict the perpretator or not But the punishments are mild. Certain privileges that you have, may be taken away from you That’s a quite mild punishment In the worst case, you can be expelled from the community. Certain privileges that are taken away, that’s like you are not allowed to say prayer in church? Exactly, you can no longer say prayer in church or for example not hand out the microphone anymore. But never a punishment in jail or a fine? No. A sentence is only possible when there are two witnesses or when the perpetrator confesses the abuse If the suspect denies the whole thing, and there is no second witness, a sentence is not possible Technical evidence, like DNA, does not play any role in these kind of church-handled cases. The intent is to solve the problem within the church That is also apparent from the manual for elders, which we have the possession of There is no rule that says that sexual abuse has to be reported to the police In theory victims are allowed to report to the police but the practice is very different. Victims are not being stopped to go to the police but on the other hand they are being advised to consider if it’s the right thing to do. It’s like “You just think it really through”? Exactly, “Think it really through, if this is what you really want” Perpetrators who are not being punished to jail. Victims that do not receive professional help That is the reason for the meeting at the department of justice today But afterwards, there was a little bit of disappointment On the other hand, the civil servants were very understanding. They also think it is very important that an investigation is carried out. Did they promise anything? Not yet. But the victims keep hoping that an investigation will soon be started Because justice is for everyone. That is in this book. We will talk with our correspondent Koen de Regt Can you tell me if this investigation will be done in the end or not? Well, the minister of Justice would like to hold more conversations before he makes a decision about a future investigation For example a hearing with the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands Only when these hearings are completed, he will make a decision whether an investigation is carried out or not. Cases of child abuse are not reported to the police. Did you ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses why they do not? Yes, we have asked this question, but in their reaction to us, they do not answer this question. Victims tell us this has everything to do with the world view of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They see themselves as the ones with the only true faith. Problems within their church, are solved preferably within their own community. We have asked the Jehovah’s Witnesses if they want to participate in such an independent investigation. The only answer we received is: “We will await the developments”. Okay, Koen, thank you.

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